Wednesday, March 08, 2006

CONA Comments

From the recent CONA Newsletter an article by Bill Zoller:

How can you help?

CONA’s board recently met with the South Venice 2010 board at the Jacaranda Library. It was a great meeting, attended by members of the Alliance in Englewood and by representatives from Richardson Road (north of Fruitville Rd.) and from all areas in between. It was an opportunity to dialogue and exchange information on our dealings with the County.

As planning issues become ever more complex; as traffic congestion becomes, seemingly, ever more insoluble; as concerns over our water supply become ever greater; as we wonder what is going to happen with the affordable housing issue; as we worry about sprawl, pollution of our waters, and about an almost endless string of problems, we face an ever greater need to band together to be proactive in addressing these issues. We need to let our elected representatives know, in a thoughtful way, what we want and need for them to do to make this area a better place, not a worse place, as we rush into the future.

If we had enough confidence in our elected officials just to let them "do it on their own", there would be no need for CONA, CCNA, the Alliance, or any other citizen and neighborhood organizations. We could just leave it in the hands of our elected officials and trust them to be able to filter out all the bad ideas that might be proposed by special interests, and to protect us from any bad possible outcomes. It would surely be a heck of a lot easier! Unfortunately, as we look around us, we can see that that just hasn’t worked. Without the input from our public interest organizations, how much worse might things be? We know that our elected officials work to do the right thing. We know they want this to be a better community. We know they need our help to make sure that a better community is what we get.

Sometimes our elected officials think, because they have the benefit of staff input and information from those seeking a land-use change, that they are more knowledgeable than the citizens who appear at the hearings, at the very end of the process. The courts have ruled, however, that we citizens are experts on our neighborhoods and are, therefore, able to give "competent and substantial" testimony about issues affecting them. Our obligation is to be informed… to learn about the issues. Along with Thomas Jefferson, I have great faith in the citizens … I believe the citizens can be trusted to bring critical and important information to the process. This is the work we need to do together through CONA and through our neighborhood and homeowner associations.

We need to hear from you. We can only be as effective as our members are willing to work. We need your insights, your concerns, your ideas. Let us know how you think we can be more helpful. I think we need to get a lot more of us "at the table" to do the heavy lifting. Will you come to the table?

Save Our Sarasota would echo these thoughts. Our elected officials cannot do what the citizens want unless they know what is wanted. Even then, the pressure from special interests can be intense. Citizens must demand that elected officials do the right thing, then support them when they do the right thing. We all need to make sure that our elected officials hear our insights, concerns and ideas. If we don't speak, only those that do speak will be heard.

1 comment:

denise Kowal, President, Burns Sq. said...

I was pleased to see Mayor Servian, Vice-Mayor Atkins and Commissioner Palmer at the Manasota Neighborhood Conference a few weeks ago that was organized by the City of Sarasota's Neighborhood Department.

The guest speaker spoke about Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). The elected officials who attended very much embraced the ABCD concept that puts the citizens at the center, being responsible for their neighborhoods and the government on the perimeter providing help with projects the citizens cannot do alone. The government is not the only one on the perimeter of a neighborhood, there are churches, social services and other institutions that will contribute to neighborhoods that learn to work as asset based communities. Communities do not need to be told by a courts that they are "experts on their neighborhood". You live there, you are an expert and those outside of it cannot be an expert. The ABCD concept places the highest importance on Associations that are citizen based discovering the assets in your community. Associations is one of the things that makes America truly unique.

I suggest those that think we should work together because we "may not have enough confidence in our elected officials" would benefit by changing that thought to, "we should work together because we are a community with assets who are the experts". We, the citizens are the ones responsible and accountable for our neighborhoods not the elected officials. We are not victims, we are people with assets that can help our neighborhoods when we work together.

I am a strong supporter of the ABCD principles. I strongly suggest reaching out to the city or county neighborhood departments to find out more about the ABCD courses. It appears the Sarasota City Commission has started to embrace the ABCD concept and that we all should support because it is a major positive shift for our communities.